display | more...

Albany is the English equivalent of the Latin Albania and the Gaelic Alba, which is what the Scots themselves called Scotland in the days when it comprised the territory north of the firths of Clyde and Forth.

The first Dukes of Albany

The title of Duke of Albany was first created by the Scottish king Robert III, who awarded it to his brother Robert Stewart on the 28th April 1398, the same day that he granted the title of Duke of Rothesay to his son and heir David; this event marking the first appearance of the degree of Duke within the Peerage of Scotland. (To avoid confusion, it is worth noting that Robert III was baptised John Stewart and simply chose to be crowned as a Robert in order to avoid the embarrassment of any connection with king John Baliol.)

Prior to his creation as Duke of Albany, Robert had obtained the earldoms of both Fife and Menteith and taken a leading role in the government of Scotland, particularly from 1389 onwards when his father's senility and brother's incapacity left him in effective charge of the country. This position remained unchanged when brother John became Robert III in 1390, and apart from a three year period between 1399 and 1402 (when the king transferred authority into the hands of his son David Stewart, Duke of Rothesay), continued until the death of Robert III in 1406. Technically Robert's son James was now king, but since he was a prisoner of the English in London at the time the Duke of Albany was formally appointed Regent of Scotland, and simply continued to run the country until his death at Stirling Castle on the 3rd September 1420.

On the death of the 1st Duke Robert, he was succeeded as both Duke of Albany and Regent by his only son Murdoch Stewart, who thus remained in charge of the country until 1424 when the English government decided to release James I. However once back in Scotland king James began to view Murdoch as a threat to his own authority and having summoned a Parliament, which met at Perth on the 12th March 1425, he ordered the arrest of Murdoch and thirty or so others on the 17th March. In the following May Parliament reassembled at Stirling and Murdoch Stewart together with both of his sons Walter and Alexander were convicted of treason and executed.

By these series of judical murders the title became extinct and reverted to the crown.

Subsequent Stewart and Stuart Creations

The Stewart kings of Scotland, having adopted the convention that their eldest sons and heirs should receive the title of Duke of Rothesay, now decided that their the second sons would become Dukes of Albany.

The first example of such a creation appears to have been sometime around the year 1456 (and certainly before the year 1458), when James II granted the title to his second son Alexander Stewart, previously Lord of Annandale and Earl of March. This Alexander later took a prominent position in the government of James III but appears to have then fallen out his older brother, as in 1479 Alexander was imprisoned whilst younger brother John was killed. However Alexander managed to escape from his captivity at Edinburgh Castle and fled to France. Unable to persuade the French to assist him against his brother he then went to England where he found that Edward IV was more receptive to his ideas.

In June 1482 they signed the treaty of Fotheringay, under which Edward agreed to provide the necessary military support and Alexander agreed to acknowledge English supremacy. Together with Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) Alexander promptly invaded Scotland. Although Alexander soon reached a compromise with his brother, he only abandoned it in favour of a fresh agreement with Edward.

Unfortunately for Alexander his English alliance fell apart with death of Edward IV on the 9th April 1483, as thereafter the English became preoccupied with their own internal disputes over the succession. His enemies in Scotland took the opportunity in July 1483 to declare Alexander guilty of treason; he fled back to France later in 1483, which is where he died in 1485.

Alexander was succeeded by his son John Stewart who was raised in France and only returned to Scotland in 1511, and later became Regent of Scotland in the aftermath of James IV's death at the battle of Flodden in 1513. However John appears to have regarded himself as French rather than Scottish and spent much of his time in the former country. He eventually left Scotland for good in 1524 and fought with Francis I in his Italian campaign of 1525 before serving as the French ambassador in Rome between 1530 and 1535. The title of Albany became extinct when John died without male issue on the 2nd June 1536.

The next creation was in 1541 when the title was granted to Arthur Stewart, short lived second son of James V, who died a mere eight days after his birth. Arthur's elder brother James Stewart, Duke of Rothesay also died in the same year which meant that king James' only surviving child was a daughter named Mary.

It was this Mary, better known as Mary, Queen of Scots who succeeded her father in 1542 that was to depart from recent tradition and awarded the title to a certain Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, eldest son of Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox. Having already awarded Henry the titles of Lord Ardmannoch and Earl of Ross on the 15th May 1565, she further created him Duke of Albany on the 20th July 1565 a few days prior to their marriage at Holyrood on the 29th July. Their marriage did not prove to be a happy one, and Henry was murdered on the 10th February 1567, very probably at the instigation of his wife and almost certainly at the hands of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, the famous Bothwell who had replaced Henry in Mary's affections.

With Henry's death the title therefore passed into the hands of his (and Mary's) son James who was already Duke of Rothesay by virtue of his status as the eldest son and heir of the reigning Scottish monarch. The title naturally merged with the crown when James became James VI after his mother's abdication on the 24th July 1567.

James VI subsequently awarded the title to his second son Charles Stuart in 1600 who later also became Duke of York when James became James I of England in 1603. Charles' title was merged with the crown when he became Charles II in 1625, and Charles in turn created his second son James both Duke of Albany and Duke of York, reflecting his position as second in line of succession to the thrones of both Scotland and England. The title was then again merged with the crown when James subsequently succeeded to the twin thrones as James II and VII in 1685.

The Hanoverian Dukes of York and Albany

Of course James II was deposed by the Glorious Revolution of 1688, after which his successors experienced a distinct shortage of sons whether first or second, until the accession of the first monarch of the House of Hanover in 1711. Of course, by this time the separate kingdoms of England and Scotland had been united into the new kingdom of Great Britain and thus the Hanoverian rulers of this new nation adopted the practice of combining the dignities of Albany and York into the single title of Duke of York and Albany.

In this form the title was awarded on three separate occasions;

  • Firstly in July 1716 to Ernest Augustus Hanover, youngest brother of King George I, which title becoming extinct on his death without heirs in 1728.
  • Secondly in April 1760 to Edward Augustus Hanover, younger brother of King George III, who similarly without heirs in 1767.
  • Finally in November 1784 to Frederick Augustus Hanover, second son of George III, who once again died without heirs in 1827.

(See Duke of York for further details.)

The Last Dukes of Albany

Some sixty years later Leopold George Duncan Albert Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the fourth and youngest son of Queen Victoria was created the Baron Arklow, Earl of Clarence and Duke of Albany on the 24th May 1881. (Victoria had departed from the recent Hanoverian tradition and made her second son Duke of York without the 'Albany' addition.) Unfortunately Leopold's health had never been good (he suffered from haemophilia for a start) and he died less than three years later after a fall at Cannes on the 28th March 1884 at the comparatively young age of thirty. The late duke's title might well have become extinct at that point had it not been for the fact that his posthumous child born on the 9th July 1884, turned out to be a son named Arthur Charles Edward.

It is important to remember at this juncture that the Hanoverians were of German origin and that Arthur's grandfather Albert, Duke of Saxe-Coburg was also German. So although Arthur was initially brought up in England, on the 30th July 1890 he became Duke of Saxe-Coburg and therefore spent most of his early life in Germany. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Arthur Charles was therefore faced with the choice of which side to choose. In the end he decided that he was more German than British and as a result his peerage title was suspended on the 28th March 1919 as a result of the Titles Deprivation Act 1917. Arthur later joined the Nazi party, was fined by a denazification tribunal after World War II and died in poverty in 1954.

As it happens the provisions of the Titles Deprivation Act permits his successors to petition for the restoration of the title, but to date have not done so. Both a son Andreas Michael of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and a grandson named Hubertus are still living, and it is still possible for one or other of these gentlemen to do so.



Creation of 1398

Creation of c.1456

Creation of 1541

Creation of 1565

Creation of 1600

Creation of 1660


As Duke of York and Albany

Creation of 1716

Creation of 1760

Creation of 1784


Title suspended 1919


  • The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for ALBANY, DUKES OF
  • Stirnet Genealogy at http://www.stirnet.com/HTML/genie/genfam.htm
  • The Peerages of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom at http://www.angeltowns.com/town/peerage/Peers.htm
  • Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.